St. Louis Character: Bankruptcy attorney Wendi Alper-Pressman finds escape in heavy metal – St. Louis Business Journal – St. Louis Business Journal

For Wendi Alper-Pressman, live music has been a lifelong passion.
The St. Louis native is embarrassed that her first concert was John Denver at the Arena. “My mother took me,” she says.
Heavier acts followed, including Led Zeppelin, sixth row from stage. “Fabulous, although I did not hear for a couple days afterward.”
Now, at 60, Alper-Pressman might take in Metallica, Disturbed or Five Finger Death Punch, heavy metal acts; they could make up one of a couple shows a week during more typical times.
It might seem an odd hobby for an accomplished bankruptcy lawyer at Lathrop GPM who’s racked up multimillion-dollar wins for clients that include big-name banks. But she explains the “escape” this way: “It’s very different than the sort of uptight banker mode to just go out and listen to the music, dance around and watch the people,” who are intriguing and nice, she says.
Alper-Pressman has been involved with Legal Services of Eastern Missouri for more than 25 years, serves on the board of the Risk Management Association and was the inaugural chairwoman of the Financial Services Committee of the Missouri Bar Association.
Are you planning a return to live music post-pandemic? I’m looking forward to traveling. A couple years ago, my husband, Norman Pressman, and I went on a cruise in the Mediterranean Sea featuring blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa. I also once went on the rock legends cruise with Sammy Hagar and Bad Company. They have another Bonamassa cruise, which benefits his foundation, in the Caribbean in February. It’s fun because everybody on the cruise ship is there for the music. You cannot be overdressed.
Poker has been another hobby of yours. Norman and I were married in 1991 the first weekend the casinos opened in Missouri. Fred Faust, who covered gambling for the Post-Dispatch, was Norman’s best man, and he made a toast about it being a good bet to marry me. But Norman and I played poker before it was cool to play poker; a lot of Omaha, not so much Texas hold’em back then.
We went to a poker fantasy camp in Vegas. Annie Duke, one of the players who taught us, was great. She’s super smart, was within maybe a month of defending her dissertation when she quit to play poker. Annie recognized my shoes and told me she had the same ones in her closet.
Is that a vice? I do have a vice for Jimmy Choos. My sister-in-law once said never skimp on anything you put on your face or feet.
Norman, also an attorney, is another character. How did you meet? This was 1987. We were both in the same practice area. I talked to him on the phone a lot. I knew he had been married and had three children. His first wife was a high school math tutor and she tutored my little sister.
He asked me if I liked the theater and said he had tickets to the Rep, did I want to go? I wasn’t certain whether he was asking me to go with him or if I wanted his tickets, so I politely declined. Then my boss told me he wasn’t married. About six months later I ran into him. I was trying to negotiate a consent judgment with someone I had sued. And Norman walked up to the defendant and said don’t sign that. I said why are you interfering in my negotiation? Our first date was a Spike Lee movie.
You once nearly lost your leg. They were within days of amputating my leg right below the knee. One of the things that got me through it was the inspiration I had from the late Carl Spector, a bankruptcy attorney at Bryan Cave. He had already been through an amputation below the knee, an amputation all the way at his hip, had a prosthetic leg and was still going to MD Anderson fighting for his life. So I put it in perspective. If they chop off the lower part of my leg, I’ll be fine. It may be life changing but not life threatening. I enrolled in a gene therapy drug trial, which made it functional enough to walk on and stop excruciating pain from lack of circulation.
What makes the St. Louis legal community unique, and why do you like it? I like the strategy of mapping out where it is I’m going to go with clients. Most of what I do there’s a set plan: Closing a loan, getting the borrower the money, having the development project completed and built and successful.
St. Louis is a very small town. The banking and bankruptcy bar is extremely small. In terms of training my associates I’ve always said be courteous and respectful to your adversaries. Be prepared. If you get a reputation for being a jerk, for being dishonest, that reputation will permeate everything you do. More so than in a place like Chicago or New York or Los Angeles, where there’s lots more lawyers and lots more opportunity to practice like that because you don’t encounter the same people all the time. Here, I can pretty much figure out how a case is going to end by knowing who’s on the other side.
Why is mentoring women important to you? When I started in 1985, there were very few women who represented banks. A few years later we started a little group, the Female Bankruptcy Attorneys. Myself, Rebecca Case, Leonora Long. We drank wine and had dinner. That same little dinner club now has about 65 women who do bankruptcy work. There’s a support group. I find that a diverse team brings the best results. If everybody’s agreeing and you get group think, you have a problem. You have blind spots.
Title: Partner, Lathrop GPM
Age: 60
Family: Husband, Norman. Norman has 3 children and 3 grandchildren.
Residence: Clayton
Education: Bachelor’s degree in history and sociology from Vanderbilt University. JD from Washington University School of Law
Favorite Restaurants: Cafe Napoli and Oceano, because the couple can bring their two Shih Tzus onto the patios.
Our inaugural Business of Pride Awards will honor LGBTQ+ business leaders and allies who are successful in their careers, active in their communities, and are advocates for inclusion and equality.
The St. Louis Business Journal is looking for remarkable business women who are excelling in their careers. Nominations are due Friday, May 21, 2021.
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